Timbuktu destruction suspect at ICC
Taliban tighten grip on Afghan city Russia launches Syria air strikes
A suspected Islamist militant accused of destroying cultural sites in Timbuktu has appeared before the International Criminal Court (ICC), in the first case of its kind.
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is suspected of war crimes over the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque in the ancient Malian city in 2012.
He was handed over by Niger after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest.
Wearing a navy-blue suit and wire-rimmed spectacles, Mr Faqi told the court: “My name is Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, I am from the al-Ansar Tuareg tribe.”
He told the court he was born “about 40 years ago” in Agoune, 100km west of Timbuktu, and was a “graduate of the teachers’ institute in Timbuktu and... a civil servant in education in the Malian government beginning 2011”.
He said he wished to be spoken to in Arabic, but gave no other statement during the proceedings at which the charges were read out.
The judge said the next hearing would be on 18 January. Taliban fighters have seized a military hilltop site in Kunduz, tightening their grip on the northern Afghan city.
The capture of the Bala Hisar fortress came despite efforts by government reinforcements, backed by NATO airstrikes and special forces, to retake the city.
It leaves the airport as the army’s last stronghold.
The Taliban overran Kunduz on Monday, their biggest military gain since they lost power in 2001. The Taliban had blockaded the Bala Hisar fortress for two days.
The nearly 200 Afghan security personnel then abandoned the position after running out of food and ammunition, an Afghan security official told Reuters. Russia has begun carrying out air strikes in Syria against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
The strikes reportedly hit rebel-controlled areas of Homs and Hama provinces, causing casualties.
The US says it was informed an hour before they took place.
Russian defence officials say aircraft carried out about 20 missions targeting Islamic
Late on Tuesday the Taliban tried to capture the airport as well, but US air strikes and coalition special forces halted their advance. A special forces commander said the foreign troops - who are in Kunduz in a State, but US officials said that so far they did not appear to be targeting IS-held territory.
Syria’s civil war has raged for four years, with an array of armed groups fighting to overthrow the government.
The US and its allies have insisted that President Assad should leave office, while Russia has backed its ally remaining in power. non-combat role - had acted in “self-defence”.
Clashes went on through the night around Kunduz, and the provincial hospital was reportedly struggling to cope with the number of casualties.
The upper house of the Russian parliament earlier granted President Vladimir Putin permission to deploy the Russian air force in Syria.
The Russian defence ministry said the country’s air force had targeted IS military equipment, communication facilities, arms depots, ammunition and fuel supplies - and did not hit civilian infrastructure or areas nearby.
Relatives mourn the death of Mohammad Akhlaq
Taliban fighters have been out on the streets of Kunduz